Coach: Khabib Nurmagomedov is driven by memory of father

At Thursday’s UFC 254 media day, Javier Mendez, AKA founder and head coach to UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, was asked a question that “The Eagle” is sick of – how was this camp affected by the death in July due to COVID-19 of his father Abudlmanap?

“It does affect and I’ll tell you how it affects,” said Mendez. “When I had his father with me, even though I’ve only cornered [with Abdulmanap] one time and that was with Dustin [Poirier], the fact that I would talk to Khabib about things, about how we apply things and he’d always tell me, ‘Yes, my father say same thing coach.’ I don’t have that anymore, so I don’t have that backup like before. Someone that grew with him and knew him better than anybody, so for me it’s a little bit more difficult per se. But he’s been handling it fantastic.

“He’s driven and he’s motivated to preserve the legacy that him and his father had planned. That’s the one thing I can say that is great. He says, ‘Coach, if anything breaks, it’s okay, because my mind is not broken.’”

“The thing I don’t feel comfortable about is because I like the easy route and to me I think he’s the best on the planet that there’s ever been at 155 on taking people to the ground and sticking on the ground. So I prefer the easy route, I always like that. He always scares the hell out of me when he likes to stand with people. I don’t like that. I’m saying this because I’m hoping that it rings true to him to not stand with this guy.

“I don’t want that because it’s not an easy feeling knowing that you have an easier route to victory and he chooses to go the harder route. With his father there, he went strictly 100 percent the Father’s Plan route. That’s the part that scares me a little.”

If Khabib defeated Justin Gaethje in the main event on Saturday, he has speculated that he may fight just one more time, and retire 30-0. So who might the maybe last opponent be?

“If we get by Justin, which I’m hoping we do and that’s the plan, I would like GSP because I was in the car when him and his father discussed the ideal last opponent was GSP. Now whether it’s Khabib’s last fight I don’t know, but let’s just say it is like you’re saying, I would say GSP. It would be my number one pick. Number one pick, GSP.”

h/t Alexander K. Lee for MMA Fighting

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